Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1971-72)
- Pete Bender -- vocals, keyboards
- Jurgen Ermisch -- guitar, keyboards, percussion
- Bernd Billhardt -- drums, percussion
- Rainer Marz -- guitar, bass
line up 2 (1972-73)
- Pete Bender -- vocals, keyboards
NEW - Michale Hauke -- drums, percussion (replaced
- Rainer Marz -- guitar, bass
NEW - Curt Cress -- drums, percussion
- Georg Robel --
- Aqua (Bernd Billhardt)
- Peter "Wyoming" Bender
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: In Prison
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; French pressing with laminated cover intact
Catalog ID: 4511
It's always interesting to find an artist who's better known in a foreign country than his native land. That's certainly the case for Peter "Wyoming" Bender.
Bender is what's known as an Army brat. Born into a military family he was actually born in France, but following his father's Army career, spent his childhood in such places as Alaska, California, North Carolina, New York, Washington and West Germany. As a teenager living in Munich, Germany he started his first band, eventually earning spending money playing local parties and Army NCO clubs. By the mid-1960s Bender had developed a local reputation as an impressive guitarist and having graduated high school, became an in-demand sessions player, touring throughout Europe behind the likes of Alexis Korner and Tony Sheridan.
By the mid-1970s Bender was living in Berlin where he formed the band Wyoming with German musicians Rainer Marz (guitar), drummer Curt Cress and bassist Georg Robel. Signed by the German Bellaphon label, 1972's "In Prison" was the group's second album. Teamed Bender with producer Peter Hauke, the collection was quite varied and with Bender singing in English, you'd be hard to tell these guys were German. I'll be honest and admit that the first time I spun this baby it didn't do a great deal for me, but with subsequent visits this has become a personal favorite. Musically the album's a strange, but interesting mix of conventional rock and occasional progressive moves. Bender's years in Europe left him with a slight, but distinctive German accent which added to the LP's weirdness quotient. Be sure to check out tracks such as the bouncy opener 'USA Seventy-Two' which came complete with a tuba solo and the strident rocker 'I'm a Roller' (the song sported a great guitar solo, but the way the way the word 'Roller' is pronounced ('Roooooooooler') was hysterical to American ears). Bender was credited with writing the majority of the material, which exemplified by tracks such as the pretty ballad 'Known By All'', 'Restless Man Intro' and 'Sunshine Peacetime' was quite commercial, complete with nifty melodies and top-40-styled hooks. The notable exception was the ten minute plus opus 'Indian Wardance'. Bender's family tree apparently included American Indian blood and on this ten minute plus opus he paid tribute to those roots. It also served as a precursor to some of his future musical directions. Elsewhere, congrats to Klaus Holitzka on designing one of the year's uglier album covers. As far as I know this LP never saw an American release.
"In Prison" track listing:
1.) USA Seventy-Two (Pete Bender) - 3:03 rating: **** stars
Kicked along by a mesmerizing tuba, the combination of a bouncy, almost oom-pa rhythm and some profoundly depressing observations about mid-'70s America made for an interesting opener. Add to that, I can't think of too many rock songs that featured a tuba solo. The song was tapped as the second German single:
- 1972's 'USA Seventy-Two' b/w 'Restless Man' (Bellaphon catalog number BF 18103)
2.) Known By All (Jurgen Ermisch) - 3:20 rating: *** stars
'Nown To All' was a pretty ballad with some nice Michale Hauke drumming and a slightly fey vocal from Bender.
3.) Restless Man Intro: (Pete Bender) - 1:18 rating: *** stars
Powered by some spare Harpsichord, 'Restless Man Intro' was another pretty ballad, though Bender's vocals sounded like they'd bee recorded in a shower stall.
4.) Sunshine Peacetime (Pete Bender) - 3:55 rating: **** stars
If you ever heard mid-'70s European radio (stations like Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg), then you'd be very familiar with the odd blend of top-40 pop, harder rock moves and socially relevant lyrics that characterized 'Sunshine Peacetime'. I grew up on this stuff so I'll admit a ready affection for the song.
5.) I'm a Roller (Jurgen Ermisch) - 3:18 rating: ** stars
Kudos for showcasing truth in advertising with the strident rocker 'I'm a Rocker'. Unfortunately Bender confused shrill screaming with powerful vocals, making this one a plodding mess. At least Rainer Marz turned in some nice guitar riffs.
1.) I'll Be Back (Jurgen Ermisch) - 2:33 rating: **** stars
I could have done without the scat opening, but once you got through that section 'I'll Be Back' was an enjoyable slightly funky number. Think along the lines of a good Redbone song and you'd have a feel for this one. Once again Marz turned in some nice, understated work. Would have made a dandy single.
2.) This Is My Song (Holger Jung) - 2:18 rating: **** stars
Filled with a catchy na-na-na chorus, 'This Is My Song' was t he album's most pop-oriented tune and probably should have been released as the single.
3.) Indian Wardance (Pete Bender) - 10:10 rating: **** stars
Maybe I'm falling into cheap stereotyping, but having lived in German for eleven years, I seem to recall German audiences being fascinated by America Indians. Bender seemingly had some Indian blood in his heritage, which may explain the inclusion of 'Indian Wardance'. Musically this was easily the album's strangest tune. Opening up with some traditional Indian chanting, the song was built on a rocked-up Indian wardance rhythm, with Bender chanting and screaming (he also howled like a dog), over the repetitive rhythm. Yeah, clocking in at ten minutes was a long time, but the song was actually better than that description would have you believe. A heavily edited version was released as the album's first German single:
- 1972's 'Indian Wardance' bw 'I'm Wheepin' (Baccilus catalog number BF 18066)
4.) Looking Out (Pete Bender - Rainer Marz) - 3:37 rating: **** stars
Pleasant blue-eyed soul tune with some nice treated lead guitar. Another tune that would not have sounded out of place on a top-40 radio station (particular on a warm Spring evening).
I've never heard any of his post-Wyoming work, but he's enjoyed quite a few German hits (sung in German) and the 1990s found Bender tapping into his Comanchee roots for a series of new age world and American Indian-influenced collections. He's been nominated for a couple of Native American Music Awards and I've seen at least a couple of his CDs "Canyon Drums" and "Born To Be Indian" in airport gift shops.
Bender has a small German website with a semi-successful English translation capability:
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